Providing convenience has long been a catalyst behind innovation. As customers, we instinctually gravitate to frictionless experiences and reward the game changing companies and ideas that offer them. It’s why today, we watch new movie releases on Netflix and pre-order our groceries on an app.
As the new year dawns, 2022 CX strategies across industries will continue to center on convenience and consumer satisfaction by nurturing omnichannel plans and implementing the latest technology. Read on to discover three customer experience predictions for the upcoming year.
The Hybrid Shopping Experience
The buzz term “omnichannel” is nothing new. However, a worldwide pandemic put added pressure on companies that hadn’t already adopted a digital strategy to supplement their brick-and-mortar stores with ecommerce alternatives. It also drove shoppers to utilize websites, apps, and other methods like curbside pickup to get necessities.
Once physical stores began to reopen, though, they were met with a new consumer – one who came back with additional expectations for the same convenience and touch points they grew accustomed to during the global shutdown.
“When the shelter-in-place orders first took effect, delivery services like Instacart and Uber Eats boomed and programs like curbside pickup and BOPIS were essential,” says Cheryl Lesniak, Director of Marketing at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.
“And while people were eager to get back into stores once restrictions eased, they also have a newfound comfort level using these services,” Lesniak continues. “In short, now they can toggle between shopping methods depending on what’s convenient at the moment.”
What does this mean for 2022? Expect to see even more demand for this hybrid shopping experience.
This looks like customers who first check product inventory before venturing into a store because of the supply chain shortages, and families in quarantine who depend on grocery delivery.
It also looks like diners ordering food through a mobile app to ensure it’s ready upon arrival or shoppers taking advantage of curbside pickup if they’re short on time.
As customer experience strategies evolve, omnichannel methods will continue prioritizing the consumer’s demands for ease and accommodation. And, at this point, it’s no longer a desire, but an expectation.
Addressing Labor Shortages with Technology
It’s clear we’re starting 2022 with a labor shortage.
According to a recent Washington Post article, “Job openings in industries such as restaurants, hotels and retail are at or near record highs. And some sectors, particularly retail and health care, have barely been able to hire enough people to balance out the number of workers leaving their jobs.”
And while many reasons factor into the ‘why’ behind the shortage, businesses are setting their sights on how to address the customer service problems caused by it.
Enter technology – a cheap hourly employee that can cover all shifts and allow current workers to focus on higher level tasks.
“Kiosks, smart lockers, robots – these solutions have been around for a while,” acknowledges Lesniak. “But prepare to see businesses embracing these technologies fully in the coming year, especially as they must find reliable ways to fill labor gaps.”
The pandemic was instrumental in advancing the adoption of self-service, so it’s no surprise customers are now more willing to utilize these programs moving forward.
“The self-service industry is expected to grow from $28.01 billion in 2020 to $68.01 billion by the end of 2026,” Morgan Petty, Executive Director of the Interactive Customer Experience Association (ICXA) says. “In 2022, the industry is expected to incorporate new AI technologies along with seamless and secure identity-verification tech to improve user experiences. This comes as consumers are becoming more accustomed to self-service experiences at ATMs, kiosks, innovative vending machines and via their own personal devices.”
Concerning self-service addressing labor shortages, she adds, “After seeing minimal impact from employee recruitment strategies, consumer-facing brands are adopting self-service technologies and deploying self-service kiosks at a more rapid rate than ever before.”
This means customers will see industries like QSR, healthcare, government, transportation and many more incorporating technology as a solution to staffing woes.
Interest in smart lockers, specifically in the QSR space, has picked up since the pandemic created a need for contactless solutions. But with a labor deficit, businesses are recognizing many other advantages they can offer. In fact, Nation’s Restaurant News lists technology-enabled pickup solutions like food lockers as a restaurant technology innovation expected for 2022.
Jerrett Nasca, Chief Revenue Officer at GRUBBRR, a leading global commerce automation company that specializes in self-ordering technologies, agrees.
“Given the ongoing labor shortage, it is important that restaurants can still service consumer demand for quick, convenient ordering processes that fit busy lifestyles,” he states. “Food lockers provide an ideal way to grab and go, offering a safe solution for crowded pickup lines and face-to-face ordering while maintaining ease of transaction.”
Whatever self-service strategy a business adopts for the future, it’s clear programs like these not only save dollars in labor but ensure customer service doesn’t take a backseat.
We can’t discuss customer experience predictions for 2022 without mentioning one of the biggest disrupters in the recent past – autonomous checkout. Expect this to grow substantially over the next year as more businesses explore and implement the technology.
A step further than self-service, autonomous checkout is a completely hassle-less experience that first got national attention when Amazon Go launched their cashierless convenience stores in 2018.
Since then, the company has expanded into the grocery market as recently as 2020, and more companies have emerged as frontrunners in this space, including ones that enable retailers to retrofit existing stores with the technology.
One such company is Grabango, a leading provider of checkout-free technology for existing, large-scale store chains.
“With Amazon doubling down on brick-and-mortar retail operations, the race towards truly frictionless checkout is accelerating,” says Will Glaser, Co-Founder & CEO of Grabango. “In 2022, this race will reach full throttle as consumer awareness increases and the financial upsides become irresistible to retailers.”
In an article from The Guardian, Laura Saunter, a senior retail analyst at the consumer trends analyst firm WSGN is quoted saying the number one pain point for people is queuing, making cashierless stores an attractive option for those who want to grab an item quickly and get out.
“Not only is autonomous checkout a huge convenience to customers who want a frictionless shopping trip, but this technology also cuts down on shrinkage because of its very nature to recognize items being selected from shelves,” Lesniak adds.
Customer Experience Predictions for 2022
Whether it’s a concentration on omnichannel efforts or introducing new technology to business operations, the year 2022 is all about expanding efforts to ensure customer service strategies are top-notch for the new discriminating shopper.